Thursday, April 10, 2008

Birthday Celebration at a Wine Festival

Over the weekend we celebrated my best friend’s birthday by going to James River Cellars for their April Fools Wine Festival. There were three other vineyards there and we were excited for a Sunday of wining and dining. Unfortunately it was sprinkling and chilly most of the day, but as I may have mentioned before about this vineyard they do have an indoor area so we had a chance to warm up between tastings.

We started off with Grayhaven Winery because I heard they had white Sangria and I was eager to try it. If you’ve never been to a wine festival before, generally the visiting vineyards only bring a selection of their wines, such as the best sellers, award winners and employee favorites. Grayhaven brought two of their whites, five of their reds and a batch of each of their sangrias. The tasting tour began with their Vidal Blanc, which, for a white wine, it had the full body and aftertaste of a red. Next up was Moonlight White, which I enjoyed at the tasting because when you let it sit in your mouth for a second to warm it developed a creamy cherry/vanilla flavor. However, I bought a bottle for later and didn’t chill long enough so I didn’t enjoy it as much.

All but one of the reds they brought were pretty dry, the one not too dry being their Pinotage. However, I found the Pinotage to be pretty jammy and the high alcohol content was overwhelming the flavor. I did enjoy their Cabernet Franc, where as I am not normally a Cab fan. It was only slightly dry and had very nice cherry notes. This vineyard also makes a dry Chambourcin they call Rendezvous (see previous blog for info on James River’s Chambourcin), which had hints of mint leaves in its bouquet and a wonderful earthy flavor. I bought a bottle of this one too for further research but haven’t tried it since.

Finally we finished the tour with their Sangria. The White Sangria was cidery with a strong nectarine flavor. I think I would have enjoyed it more had it not been so cold out. Their Red Sangria was tasty, but a little heavier in the spices than I would season it myself. They used pear juice, which was something I haven’t thought about but definitely need to consider next time I make my own.

After a short break I moved on to Cooper. Unfortunately their abbreviated selection didn’t have much I was excited about except for one new addition since the last time I’d seen them: Noche. It’s a chocolate dessert wine! At first I was skeptical, but in one sip I was in love. I could see pouring it over a cake or drinking it with fresh berries. I picked up a bottle of this for my mother so we could enjoy it after Mother’s Day dinner.

Last I moved on to Lake Anna Winery, which really isn’t my favorite winery in Virginia. However, I wanted to see what was new so I could see if my mind could be changed about them. Unfortunately the guy running the table at this time didn’t seem very interested in being there and I basically stood there for a minute or two talking to one of the other tasters who was taking her tour without him even acknowledging me. I asked him a couple questions, hoping this would spur him to begin a tasting tour, but after a couple yes/ no answers I finally asked to taste two reds from their list that I thought sounded good. One was the Spotsylvania Claret, the other the Enigme. They were neither horrible nor memorable and after yet another bad experience with this vineyard I do not foresee myself giving them yet another chance.

There are many other delights at wine festivals to keep you busy if you’ve sampled a little more than you should and need to cleanse your palette. One particularly delightful booth I stumbled upon (not literally… I had to drive the birthday girl later on) was one that sold apple cider, apple spreads, and apple vinegar. Everything I tried was absolutely fantastic and the woman working was very nice and answered all of my questions. I wound up purchasing a couple bottles of the cider for my brother (a sparkling beverage fanatic) and a jar of their Apple Grilling Glaze, a zesty yet sweet sauce that I plan on grilling chicken or pork with as it warms up outside. Their website is great as well because it gives suggestions for using their items as well as a few recipes. The website is

There was also De Rochonnet Delights, a chocolatier that made wine truffles among other gourmet goodies. I visited their website, and normally the truffle center is blended with a cabernet, but the girl at the booth said they used James River Cellars’ Chambourcin for the wine festival. Naturally I bought a few for later, considering it was my best friend’s birthday after all.

I really could go on and on about this festival, but I don’t want to bore. All in all it was a fun day that ended with quite a few empty bottles that we had purchased at the festival and full bellies from snacking… sorry, “pairing,” and grilling up burgers later on that evening.

Next week I’m going to a Wine 101 course, so I plan on passing my knowledge on to you.

-Wine Chic

1 comment:

Michelle said...

You know, if you've recently brushed your teeth, at the end of the tour, all of the Grayhaven wines combined taste of macaroni and cheese. :) Another great post, by the way.